Hack Your Program – University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa Library and Information Science

Aloha! I wanted to share with all of you some information about an LIS program you might not know much about. Though many people think of Hawaiʻi as a vacation destination, and not as a location for obtaining a Master’s in Library Science, it’s worth taking a look at. While “diversity” is a huge buzzword these days (which we could argue about till the cows come home), it is a basic fact of life here in Hawaiʻi (see program values here). If you’ve never experienced life as a minority, or made friends who grew up in other countries or cultures, spending a few years in Hawaiʻi is an excellent opportunity to do so. I’m not suggesting permanent relocation; island fever IS real, and you WILL miss your super-far-away family, despite the closeness of the beach. But attending the University of Hawaiʻi can be a great chance to broaden your perspectives and try something different while you get your MLISc.

The Basics:

UH Mānoa offers two tracks: General and School Library Media Specialist (for accredited teachers who wish to gain this separate licensure in the State of Hawaiʻi). The general track includes those who wish to pursue academic, special, and public librarianship, as well as a certificate for archives.

A total of 39 credits are required for graduation; courses are generally three credits each.

Core classes are as follows:

LIS 601 Introduction to Reference & Information Services

LIS 605 Metadata Creation for Information Organization

LIS 610 Foundations of the Information Professions

LIS 615 Collection Management

LIS 663 Database Searching

Students must also take a management class and an advanced technology class.

Finally, in order to graduate, two options are currently available; either a thesis or a one-hour comprehensive oral exam. Some changes are in the works that may add another option in the future.

Dual Master’s degrees are also available in the following subjects: American Studies, Asian Studies, Learning Design and Technology, Hawaiian Language, Hawaiian Studies, History, Information & Computer Sciences, Law, and Pacific Islands. Students also may choose to pursue a Certificate in Advanced Library and Information Science (CALIS).

Distance Education:

At this time, distance learning is only available to residents of Hawaiʻi who live too far to attend at the Mānoa campus (like on another island). I have written elsewhere about some of my challenges with this, so I won’t elaborate, except to say that if you are one of these “neighbor island” residents, it will be challenging, AND it will be totally worth it! Also probably much simpler/cheaper than relocating to Oʻahu, as long as you are a self-motivated person.


Obviously as a public university, there are resident and non-resident tuition prices, the latter of which are terrifying (some residency questions are addressed here). But here’s some good news! The UH Office of Graduate Education has granted the LIS Program a limited number of non-resident tuition exemption awards for the 2017-2018 school year. These will allow non-residents to pay resident rates! Make sure to apply for them in advance of the April 1 admission deadline.

Student Organizations:

  • ALA Student Chapter
  • LIS Diversity Council
  • Graduate Student Organization
  • Hui Dui
  • Nā Hawaiʻi ʻImi Loa
  • SAA Student Chapter
  • Special Libraries Association Student Chapter


  • Really great faculty with expertise in a variety of areas
  • Small program (about 75 students), so plenty of opportunities and attention for YOU
  • LIS Program located in Hamilton Library, the premier academic collection of the Pacific region
  • Flexible curriculum can be largely tailored to your own interests, through electives, internships, independent study, thesis, etc.


  • Could use a better orientation, especially for those who are new to library science
  • Still improving the distance options for neighbor island students

And finally, a few tips for those of you who do decide to come join us:

  • LIS 601 is a ridiculous ton of work. No one else is going to tell you that. But I’m here to spare your sanity, and warn you in advance (it’s also awesome, by the way, and you’ll feel great when you survive!).
  • Mopeds get stolen almost every day on campus. Learn how to lock yours properly.
  • Traffic and parking in Honolulu are truly horrendous, however, it is a highly bikeable city.

I’d be happy to answer any questions in the comments below!

Mele Kalikimaka me Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou! (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!)

5 replies

  1. Thanks for giving us an inside look at the UHM library science program. I UHM offers the option of enrolling as an unaffiliated graduate studen to take individual courses before applying to a specific graduate school. A librarian friend who teaches in the UHM program said that if you’re not sure MLIS is for you, but already live and work in Hawaii, why not stay at your job initially while trying one class that scares you. If you like it and survive, you’ll know you’re ready for the rest of library school!


    • For those interested in taking some courses to test drive the program, LIS 610 is a better starting course (in lieu of LIS 601) for non-majors. Anyone who has any questions about the program is welcome to contact the LIS Program Coordinator via email (address on the site) for more information.


      • Interesting, because I was advised to take 610 towards the end of the program! My first class was Management, which turned out to be the perfect start for me, as it was probably the only one I had some experience in already. It had a lot of overlap in concepts from non-library experiences.


    • I’m currently in the program and I can tell you that the students come from every discipline for their undergrad degrees, so I don’t see why not! I’m not a representative of the program though, just a current student, so reach out to the Program Coordinator for more information at lisstaff@hawaii.edu. I will say that the author’s statements about LIS601 are correct. I’m taking it right now and, while the information is really important and helpful, it’s SO much work! However all of the staff and faculty are great and I love my fellow students. It’s a great program overall and you won’t regret it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s